Caesars Windsor bets on major sports in single games, becoming the first land-based casino in Ontario to offer full-service live sports betting.
“It’s been a while … we’re a little late to the game,” Caesars Windsor President Kevin LaForet said during the casino’s ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday. “I mean, we’d love to be first to market and be first against Detroit casinos against igaming. So it will make it more competitive.”
Caesars Sportsbook is located in front of the Legends Sports Bar with three betting counters and seven betting kiosks.
The space contains 22 large-screen HD LED TVs and dedicated seating areas.
Getting there was not easy.
It’s been 11 years since Windsor-Tecumseh New Democrat Joe Comartin first launched an initiative for single sports betting in Ontario casinos.
Private member’s bill after private member’s bill died in the House of Commons before Bill C-218 was finally passed into law in 2021.
“It gives them an opportunity to compete first of all because they wouldn’t be able to do it with one hand tied behind their back without us having a service that we couldn’t have here,” said Brian Masse, a Windsor West New Democrat who accepted an ad for the cause and helped to finally bring the law to its goal.
Now a year and a half has passed. IGaming launched in April 2022, finally paving the way for individual sports betting in Ontario.
Experts say igaming was OLG’s priority before turning to land-based casinos.
“Because of the way things are run and the bureaucracy, there had to be conversations between the OLG AGCO and of course the private ground operators,” said Robyn McNeil, editor at playcanada.com.
One of the big selling points of the legislation was the creation of jobs and the elimination of the gray market and off-shore sports betting.
Early estimates predicted the opening of the casino sportsbook could create north of 100 jobs at Caesars alone.
President Kevin LaForet says there are now dozens operating at the sportsbook and promises other spin-offs will follow.
“What it does is it drives traffic into the building so you’re going to see more jobs, whether it’s cocktail servers, bartenders, dealers, things like that because it’s an amenity that attracts people,” he said.
Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, which represents unionized Caesars Windsor employees, says time will tell how many jobs this will create, noting that the workforce is almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
“I’m not sure about 100 jobs, but we know jobs will come out of this,” he said. “I don’t see any downside risks to this.”
But the question remains, can the casino compete with the now established igaming?
LaForet believes it’s all about service.
“Some like that social interaction of going somewhere where there are other people who are excited and there are other amenities, food and drink,” LaForet said.
Measuring the success of live sportsbooks will be a matter of personal taste, according to McNeil.
“I think everybody has to step up their game a little bit,” McNeil said.
“They really just need to give the people what they want.